With all of us being on bikes, I am sure this comes up for us a lot. It's a big question.
How do we succeed as advocates in our community? How do we bring about much-needed change?
As cyclists we all see resistance to what we are doing:
- Rolling into work on a cold/rainy/snowy day with co-workers telling us we are "crazy"
- Struggling to share the road and claim our space in the bike lane on our streets
- Members of the West and South communities with much needed infrastructure and support, getting ticketed more than those from other communities
- In the media, when there's a tragedy in our community - whether it is the coverage and/or the comments people leave, it can be disheartening to put it lightly
We have an uphill battle. This morning a FB post meant to promote the t-shirt and pint glass sale quickly turned ugly because I included a photo of Chainlink members posing with bike cops. We took the photo during the Ferris fundraiser for WBR and they were watching over a peaceful protest taking place near the Flamingo. We talked about what we were doing with the scavenger hunt and they were kind and encouraging, calling it "cool" and taking an interest in hearing about it. From my perspective, having bike cops living what we experience on the roads is a helpful step to having our officers truly understand the dangers we live with. I was not intending to make a larger statement by the photo, there was no comment in the photo but whether or not I intended it, that's not how it was received.
So I was accused by a fellow minority as an "ignorant and clueless white person" "pushing a white supremacist agenda". And being called an "a**hole* on Twitter. Ouch. The words meant to hurt me and they did.
Ultimately, I decided to take the photo down, blocked the user, and took my heated exchange offline. I was pretty hurt and upset mostly because some pretty serious assumptions were being made about me and wildly inaccurate at that. I don't pretend to know all of the difficulties all of our communities face so I try to keep my ears open and help when I can but I try hard not to name-call because I worry it will not help me accomplish any end-goal successfully. I don't always succeed - I think I fall on my face relatively often and then I get up, dust myself off and try to be more thoughtful the next time and I apologize and try to own my mistakes. Since taking over CL, I have changed my approach significantly because I realized no matter what, if I comment, to some it carries more weight than I wish. Mostly, I wish I could comment as myself without the weight of that so that people weren't afraid to disagree with me. So I comment less now and try to save it for comments that go unchallenged that may impact a group on our site e.g. it's important to make sure women feel comfortable commenting, asking questions, and participating. The goal is to have The Chainlink be a place all cyclists can visit and talk about their concerns, needs and wishes. We all share a common goal to have a supportive cycling community that can ride safely.
So I challenged the person this morning and now I am challenging myself - am I working towards accomplishing the goal I feel is important to accomplish? Am I alienating with my words rather than illustrating a different point of view, is that person shutting down/off because my message came on too strong?
What else comes to mind? Spitting on pedestrians, carrying rocks in our panniers (to hurl at cars), disrespecting pedestrians, motorists and fellow cyclists in the way that we ride, sitting on or damaging cars, insulting/name-calling when someone says something we feel is wrong-minded. All of these things aren't helping us achieve our goals. We have a pretty amazing infrastructure that's growing so quickly. Granted, the West and South communities are lacking that same support and we need to work on that as a bike community. How can we help achieve this support and growth? How can we help our cause and contribute to make biking more safe for all of us than it is? I'll continue to work on my message and my own representation of our bike community (and really work hard not to swear when I get cut off by a motorist). The goal is to have The Chainlink be a place we can talk about these issues in a thoughtful way. How can we work towards more positive change?
p.s. I posted this in hopes of turning a negative experience into something positive.
yup. Every day. :-)
Yasmeen, just so you know, anyone who would criticize your intentions or accuse you because of that photo is really, really ignorant. So don't let it get you down. If people I respect have a problem with something I'm doing or saying, I take that seriously. Don't be bothered by the opinions of people who are just mindlessly ranting on social media.
Sorry you had to experience such nastiness. :(
I didn't see the FB exchange, so no comment on that. I too hoped that cops on bikes would be useful allies, but that hasn't been my experience. They usually ignore cars parked in bike lanes and salmon with abandon. They're assigned to "watch over peaceful protests" so that they can use the bikes as mobile pedestrian barriers. I've seen them use the bikes to strike peaceful protestors. YMMV
The difficulty with an online community or a social media platform is they are open and large. Many voices and many viewpoints participate. You are going to thrill some, annoy some and bore others. There is no way around that. Find what you believe in and hold your head high expressing it. Of course, the way we express things is a huge issue. I see lots of people say right things in the wrong way. I also see lots of people think their opinion is the only one. On many issues there are a lot of potential solutions, roads, outcomes, tactics etc. When you run a community, as you do, or when you express opinions, as many of us do, you are going to get disagreement and that disagreement can be thoughtful or just plain disagreeable. You have run into a lot of the latter and that can be frustrating.
For some the mere image of the police is conveys a negative message. In the context of an event where police misconduct led to a citizen being harmed I get it. In the context of cyclists saddling up to the local protectors I do not get it. I see a logical progression that goes in a poor direction if the mere image of police is toxic. Are all police out to harm citizens? Of course not. If so, are all[insert a social, religious or racial group here] [insert negative stereotype here]. Having said that I have a hard time seeing the amalgamated haters who marched in Virginia last week in any light but evil but have to assume they have mothers and fathers and beneath their veneer of hate some semblance of humanity. None of this excuses any of the bad police behavior that has plagued us for many years but has been more newsworthy in recent years.
some random thoughts on an open forum-
We must allow thoughtful discussion of all viewpoints. This does not mean accepting trolls but does mean hearing opposing viewpoints. I would invite discussion with anti bike viewpoints or pro car viewpoints but be intolerant of the type of discussion that follows every crash story on DNA Info.
Allow members to freely attack ideas but not to attack the people who express them. Alas, we cannot have, "Jane you ignorant slut" as a model for discussion.
Consider allowing an original poster to set ground rules for a thread. If a thread is sensitive it may not be a good one for the open discussion I mention. Let the original poster limit who and how with replies. For example we have had threads discussion female issues and I am happy to keep any ideas to myself. Frankly, I would not have a problem if I could not see that discussion if it was deemed that sensitive. The only concern I have with that is what if somebody put a thread that did not allow Jews, or whites or blacks or Muslims etc? That might be a slippery slope. Another way to do this might be to simply allow the original poster to set the atmosphere for the thread- ie setit as "anything goes" that would allow unfettered chatter that could get rough or set it for some kind of "best behavior" sensitivity.